This week, we’re delighted to feature children’s media creator and mom of two Tracey Ellert on the blog. For the past 15 years, Tracey Ellert has hosted a live closed-circuit TV game show at Chicago Lurie Children’s Hospital. She is an original children’s storyteller (est.2001) with themes that focus on the social/ emotional development of children ages 0-6. She is bilingual and performs enrichment programs in both English and Spanish. Her live show is best described as a one-woman comedy show for preschoolers and families. All her content is original, and she uses props and toys to bring the stories to life. Tracey brings her educational background in acting, improv, and early childhood to all her shows, which are interactive, educational, and play-based. Tracey also has extensive experience in children’s media, including writing for a show for Disney, and performing on Nick, Jr show. She is currently a creative children’s director for the live interstitials on the PBS show Nature Cat, and she now curates her own channel on YouTube called Sillyhoo: Big Little Laughs with Tracey Ellert.
What is your creative practice like?
I’m a children’s storyteller and a writer. I write live shows for young children and also TV shows for young kids. I have written for children’s TV shows such as Nature Cat(PBS), Jack’s Big Music Show (Nick, Jr.) and Bunnytown (Disney). I have created my own TV shows on my YouTube channel called Sillyhoo. My practice involves relaxing and playing with children, which requires me to be in the moment and uninhibited by the burden of life’s stressful, bothersome worries.
I come to a performance with a concept and idea that children are dealing with and a few props that might heighten my idea. I usually start with some sketched out ideas and begin to improvise. I allow plenty of interaction with the children to see what they think and feel around the subject, and with their magic a story comes out of it all.
What are important motherhood contexts people should know about you?
I am a mother of two children: a boy named Mateo, age 8, and a girl named Kamila, age 4. We are raising our children in a bilingual and multicultural home. My husband is from Mexico City and we are very open about current issues happening right now between the U.S. and Mexico. We feel it’s important for them to learn at an early age about important issues and teach them how peace and love are so important in our world. To teach them that every single person has their own unique color of skin and personality and to love, no matter what.
How has the practice of your creative life changed since motherhood?
Before motherhood I had endless amounts of time to collaborate with other artists, create new pieces. Now that I am a mother I have to be very careful with the small window I have when I am not working as a mother. I utilize my time wisely and intentionally to try to expand time.
I recently started working more with my children. I wrote a story and I have asked my son to illustrate it, and I also asked both children if they had any edits or ideas. I realized I can work with them, not on everything, but for a lot of what I do I need children to inspire me. Of course, it is different with your own because they are in their home and want to do what they want to do, so I am flexible and try things out with them. If we are out playing somewhere at a museum and an idea hits, I will film something with my children and save it for my YouTube channel. I will record songs that I sing out loud to my kids throughout the day. I may also tell them a new story at night before bed, and if I like it, I will write it down after they sleep. Most of filming for my YouTube channel happens when they are at school, but I will do research for things I am working on when my kids have playdates or are engaged with another child at the park.
What has been most challenging about sustaining a creative life in motherhood?
I find time the most challenging. I want to play with my kids all the time. I truly enjoy playing; I love going to the park, going for a bike ride. I love painting, drawing and reading. After 3pm, most of the day is absorbed by taking my kids out somewhere to have an experience.
What’s been the best surprise about having a creative life in motherhood?
The best surprise about having a creative life in motherhood is when your children start creating and you get to be part of their creations. Also, the ideas that they inspire in my work.
What are the particular issues that come up as an artist who works with children?
I have performed at hundreds of children’s birthday parties and I have had the same two issues arise at many of those parties. One is the amount of stimulation at a child’s party. If you are hiring entertainment, then you don’t need a jumpy house as well. I have been to so many parties where the birthday child can barely even participate in his/her own party because they are overwhelmed. Keep it simple. Also, I have had numerous parties where the parents are excited to have me perform and they talk the entire show. I know as a parent that getting adult time to talk is so important as an individual. However, when you are on the phone talking and hearing something important, you insist your child is quiet and must wait until you are done. So, if children are watching a show, then they should show them the same respect they request. I prefer the parents leave me alone with all 50 kids and take their conversation to the veranda. I can handle that, but I can’t compete with loud, distracting parents.
What’s been the your most important mantra to continue having a creative life as a mother?
My mantra is to play. Try my best to be in the moment when I’m with my kids or entertaining other peoples’ kids. It keeps the flow going.
Who are other artist mothers in your field that inspire you? Artworks that inspire you as a creative mother?
It inspires me to go to the LACMA and see exhibits. Other mothers I admire are on Instagram: Days With Grey, who wrote a book on some creative ways to start the day with kids, and BusyToddler, who also is a mother and has created wonderful educational activities for kids.
To learn more about Tracey, visit her website:
If you are a mother who works in a creative field, please reach out. Or, if you know one such mother, please recommend her for the blog!